Glorious Gladioli

Gladiolus has long been a favorite flower in the florist trade for its stately beauty in arrangements. But it also lends an air of dramatic beauty to the garden.

These magnificent flowers originated in South Africa and are members of the iris family. They come in almost every color, except true blue, and stand tall on 3 to 6 foot stems.

They grow from a corm, like a bulb, that needs to be planted in the spring for flowers this summer. The funnel-shaped flowers flare out and usually are ruffled at the edges. They open from the bottom up, and all face in one direction. The leaves are shaped like swords and arranged in narrow, upright fans.

Glads make excellent cut flowers. Cut the stems when the bottom flower is fully opened. Most of the remaining buds will open, a few at a time, almost to the tip. Pick off the faded flowers and they will last for about 10 days in the vase.

Plant gladioli in full sun now through June. Dig in a generous amount of compost, add bulb fertilizer or bone meal in the bottom of the hole and mix it into the soil. Then plant the corms 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart. To have a succession of blooms this summer, plant some corms every 2 weeks from now through June. This will produce blooms from midsummer into early October.

Water regularly throughout the dry weather until the leaves begin to turn yellow. Then withhold water and let the foliage yellow completely. If foliage doesn’t turn yellow before frost, cut leaves and stems down in the fall after frost.

You can also grow gladioli in containers, but they will need to be fertilized regularly through the season. Fertilize when the flower spikes first appear and after the flowers are picked or done blooming.

Glads need to be staked or tied up to a fence to keep them from falling over when they bloom. Grow them in rows or in clumps and stake or tie them accordingly. You can also stick a few in here and there among perennial flowers where they make a fine accent.

Gladiolus flowers come in red, pink, rose, orange, yellow, white, lavender and purple as well as bi-colors. Choose corms now to match your indoor decor or coordinate with other flowers in the garden.

Glads do not always overwinter well in the ground in our climate. To save them for next year, lift the bulbs in autumn, remove as much soil as possible and cut off the stalk about one inch above the corm. Put the corms in a mesh bag or a paper bag with holes poked in it and store them over the winter in a frost-free place. Never store in plastic bags.

Glads add a wonderful vertical dimension to the flower border. You’ll be glad to have glads in your garden this summer.

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